missed a day

Well, i missed yesterday.

to sum up the big things yesterday, in advanced analysis, we were working on doing some set theory analysis of Schoenberg Op. 23 No. 2. the wonderfully stimulating assignment for the day had been to find all the [0 1 3], [0 1 4], and [0 3 6] trichords. well, for how much i use some ideas with set theory in my own composition, going through and labeling trichords may be the most mind-numbing exercise i know. I got through about 1 page...maybe...it was painful.

someone, with about 10 minutes remaining, asked the question that so many others had asked before; "What exactly is the point of this?" cause, seriously, what is the point?

Allen Forte would argue, one of the big reasons is to bring an objective approach to musical analysis. Also, it provides the theorist with a huge amount of indisputable evidence. here are 47 different instances of [0 1 3]. the next copious amount is of [0 1 4] and there are 34. therefore, [0 1 3] is the most important trichord.

There are lots of other parts of this, of course. I am being glib. however, the biggest part of it is doing all the analysis, starting with trichords, then tetrachords, then on and on, till you've analyzed every chord.

Now, again, there are portions i am skipping, but, to me, i don't feel like you have to do all that mind-numbing labor to reach the point of a piece. finding out how man [0 1 3]'s there are, doesn't particularly bring more meaning to the piece...to me.

As i've been working in this analysis class, the professor (i have attempted to keep names out of this blog unless its a specific book or article or something. mainly, cause i haven't asked anyone's permission. lol) makes a big deal out of relationships. Honestly, i wasn't sold on it at first, as we went through some early Schoenberg atonality (or pantonality, as he would have liked to call it). now, after stepping back into straight set theory, and wanting to tear my eyes out after an evening, i see the point. It's about finding meaning in pieces, right?

So, as we were discussing some set theory in class, the question of "what goes to what trichord" came up, when looking at a set of 4 notes. of course, the answer is "all trichords that happen during that moment are viable and, in fact, should be recorded." however, it's almost like a koan. for some, they saw "well, there is a three note chord in the LH and a single note in the RH, therefore it's melody and harmony, so the trichord is the LH and the RH is its own thing." i heard "well, but they are all in the same range (Eb Gb Bb in the LH with an A between the Gb an Bb in the RH), so all four notes should be considered a collection and analyzed as such."

so...the koan said to me "John, you care about texture a lot. and not about the written texture of melody/harmony, but the actual sonic landscape created." yeah, i kinda thought that before, but i answered the question off the cuff, at the spur of the moment, not much pre-thought outness (i had skipped the measure...cause it was all crazy and i couldn't find things, and i saw 4 notes and said "screw this." lol). And, i realized the moment i said it, that it was exactly how my perceptions lay.

i'm gonna do my final analysis paper all about texture mapping and finding relationships in a piece solely based on texture. Dunno how yet, but i'll do it.

Also, in forum, the best titles for pieces came out. I shall write "Taste the Rainbow" for Skittles, piano, and percussion. oh yes i will. there were many more, but i'm saving those for a special occasion.

as for today...well...

i didn't do much of anything. lol. i made an AWESOME dinner. Granola encrusted chicken stuffed with creamy swiss cheese, dried cherries, fresh rosemary, garlic, and Parmesan cheese served with angel hair pasta with homemade tomato sauce. AWESOME! and it only took about an hour to prepare. not bad

Other than that, i read an article on neo-Riemannian theory by Richard Cohn. a good friend of mine sent me this after i was discussing with him my framework for creating a cylinder based musical space containing. it was interesting, as i was only passingly familiar with the ideas. It also leads toward a nice way of looking at relationships between notes. starting to see a theme here? lol. it seems to be a big part of theory. :)

anyway, yeah, this cylinder containing a cloud based upon fixed lines from a fixed center point is intriguing. i need to work out the relationships part. how much of a change in pitch is point A to point B when point A and B are 22º apart on the circle, and both equally distant from the center point. yep yep...

Anyway, other than that, i figured out one reason the speakers in my TV were a bit noisy. cheap cable. I changed it with my personal cable (still cheap, but not AS cheap) and it was a lot less noisy. the noise floor is still too high for my taste, but they are 5 watt speakers in a monitor/tv. not exactly super high quality. lol. but good enough for my current movie watching taste.

Also, it's nice that i can still work through these problems. i may be doing it regularly again soon. probably. who knows...



and then there were...

i am sad that shift-tab doesn't seem to go back on this screen. hm...tab doesn't keep going either. hm.

still getting used to Google Chrome. undoubtedly something with that.

Anyway, rocking the new monitor. it allows me to procrastinate 10x more efficiently!

I had this thought last night of doing some theoretical work based on transpositions based upon circular movement. not rotational like [ a b c d] [ d a b c] [c d a b] and so on, but actually based on movement around a circle, like a clock. create a web of notes extending from a center point with their movement based upon the distance between each point. so, say D1 is [ 0 1 2 3], then D2, which is 10 degrees around the circle might be something like [ 0 2 4 6] and D3 may end up [ 0 3 7 10] or something...of course, they might not end up a fibonacci sequence like that, but, yeah, have it based upon distance and such.

i'm almost sure someone has done this. there's so much work currently being done about mapping sequences (especially for pitch) in a 3D framework that it probably has been done. More widely likely is that someone has done so in mathematics. Seriously, what don't crazy mathematicians try? lol. it's quite astounding

I'm NOT a mathematician. i had a general dislike of math. and for what is, possibly, an odd reason; there is always a specific discernible answer. yep, that's why i dislike math...cause there's always an answer. you do these 50,000 steps, and you will arrive at it. I had more of a thing for theoretical physics and chemistry, when you came up with crazy ideas...then had to find the math to prove it. lol. i'm sure high enough math is the same thing, i just had no patience to learn the 50,000 earlier steps to get there, so, i didn't. lol

I suck at math. it's a problem. I'm also not very good at recognizing complex patterns. like "find all of the [ 0 1 4] occurrences. yep...i don't make a good theorist. lol

on another note, Ped of Comp was again tonight. man, i love this class. we spoke a bit about last weeks seminar, when Dr. Chen and Dr. Rudy came through and discussed their approaches. then we talked about SillyBuses. finally, about different methodologies specific to teaching composition. Seriously, a good class.

And i love how we get in fights, in every class. lol. the good kind, where we disagree, and argue, then laugh about it and talk about getting into bar fights. seriously. the people are genuinely intelligent and thoughtful about how to teach. and a nice chunk have taught, which is nice. i keep looking at things from an "education majors" perspective, which is definitely different, and it's great to see all these different opinions. it really is stretching my imagination and challenging my preconceptions of teaching composition. great experience.

well, i'm gonna head to bed. got class in the morning. boo. lata peeps



first off, pizza and beer is the best tradition ever. should institute drinking games revolving common composition tropes. like, every time someone says "serialism" you chug a beer. Or go with popular movie themes. every time someone says "a prophecy" you chug a beer. anyway, a group of composers drinking beer and eating pizza is the greatest idea ever

had workshop today. i really enjoy the experience. the other guys are awesome and are writing some good music. my piece is going well, getting some good feedback. But the professor said "you should get this piece out of the way...that means you should do a couple movements a week and bang this thing out."

well, it seems i'm writing more carefully these days. i guess that's a nice way of saying i write slower. lol. It started with the opera, which took me over a year, most of which was spent on 6 minutes of the 21! lol. but the idea of finishing it super fast doesn't appeal to me.

I think it was more the attitude. I am writing a graded piece for a HS band. Yes, it limits me a great deal. I can't do complex rhythms (which i enjoy a great deal) and i can't write incredibly jagged jumpy lines, go completely atonal, and basically go nuts. yeah, so its different...but finishing it quickly, getting it "out of the way," yeah, that doesn't appeal to me. It's that kind of shove off attitude that is what ends up creating really poorly written graded pieces, pieces without any substance, without meaning. I'm trying to avoid all that.

yeah, anyway, end rant. lol. but, yeah, i'm really trying to make a meaningful, not overly simple, but right in the perfect range. yep yep. anyway, now to enjoy my NEW SAMSUNG T240HD!!! really good monitor choice!


teaching day 1 and opera

So, today was my first day with CITS (Composers In The Schools), a part of the UMKC Academy. Went to a local MS with a undergrad senior from UMKC to work with a 7th grade orchestra. It was an interesting experience.

Neither of us had taught there, and our only contact was a short e-mail over the weekend. So, it was really a "wing it" kind of day. We weren't sure what they had been doing, or what the teacher wanted to do this semester. So, what do you start with?

"Hi, my name is ___" of course. from there, it was easy...

kind of...

I went a route (and the other teacher went along for the improv ride quite well!) of finding what interests the students musically, then writing something. The primary teacher, of course, already had an outlined idea of the project. I had a feeling he might have. He jumped in, and, i whispered to the other teacher from UMKC "always trust their teacher to jump in and know exactly what they need. you start the lesson, he'll direct it where it might need to go to fit his plans."

Ah, i miss working in this situation. I spent a lot of time doing it in undergrad. It's...kinda nice

So, i planted the seed of working from music YOU like. As i told them, any composer has to write what s/he likes, otherwise the piece will NEVER get done. and that's the truth. if you don't like it, don't want to do the project, it won't happen...until, maybe, the last minute, if its an assignment of commission. Which leads me to the "never take a commission you don't want." lol.

They're assignment is to come up with an 8 bar sketch of a melody. They had previously worked on melody, harmony, some part-writing, and what makes up music, so it was a good step. I was thinking more along the lines of two or three 4 bar sketches, but that's because i still think too motivically. lol.

In other news, i finally watched this 1983 production of Die Tote Stadt. Honestly, the music was amazing, Korngold is a fantastic composer, but the staging was...well...

It was amazing. absolutely mind boggling. Completely surrealist. which, made some sense, as 90% of the opera is a vision by the main character...however...

it was too disjointed. I actually couldn't follow what was happening. I'm no novice to the stage nor to opera. I was raised a theater brat, know my way around designing just about everything (some things much better than others. sets, not my forte, but i know a good one when i see one). This...well...I really couldn't follow what was happening.

The characterizations were quite wild. First, Paul (the lead) is portrayed as a sociopathic schizophrenic. He has incredible mood swings, attempts suicide to begin the second tableau, kills his best friend, has sex with a woman in what appears to be a coffin he fashioned into the floor with a normal wooden door that holds his dead wife, turns a pious processional into a macabre display of half-death, and in the end, commits suicide...

now, i'm all for artistic interpretation, but, yeah...that's about 160 degrees off from how i'm reading the character. in the original, he gets in a fight with his friend, but doesn't come to blows, the sex definitely happens but there is no mention of a cellar style mausoleum, and he doesn't commit suicide, instead leaves Bruge with his friend.

Oh my, and his friend Frank. For some reason, he is portrayed first as a priest. then he is portrayed as a devil/vampire image, then as a bishop (still with his died red beard and thigh length red braid of hair). it is this bishop image he sees at the end as his friend asks him to leave the city...

To me, the entire ending is a 180 from the libretto. I read it as a man who has finally let go of the past through these violent visions. He's finally able to let his wife die and leaves the city with his friend, Frank, to see the world. Regain himself

Not kill himself. Paul is quite insane during the visions, there is no doubt, but it's a not a suicidal/homicidal insane. It's the crazy we all go through when we lose someone dear to us. yeah, there's a lot of "i can't go one" and "i don't want to live" but it's not like it was portrayed here. His manic. He is schizo, even in reality, completely off his rocker. He wants to die. he seeks death. and he seeks penance for looking at a woman, even at the end, when, in the original story, he finds redemption and the ability to live on his own.

That's the rub to me. they changed the end of the story. They changed it enough that it's just not Die Tote Stadt to me anymore. Now, it's about a crazy dude, seeing crazy shit, and killing himself, not a man working through all his problems, the loss of his wife, and finding a way to live. That's a pretty huge difference. big enough that i can't understand the artistic choices. so, you wanted to make it darker? the visions are already pretty terrifying (not quite Salome terrifying, but pretty bad).

I could go on and on about this, cause there are a lot of points of deviation that, to me, actually change the original meaning.

Let's say it this way. A lot of people complain about movies made from books, that things were changed, blah blah blah, and that it should be "a movie based upon the book" not just "the book as a movie." Well, this is an opera based on the opera Die Tote Stadt. By itself, as a work, it's remarkable. but it's not Die Tote Stadt.

oh, btw, they left out lines that didnt fit the mood. to me, that's telling. "Oh, i need to make this super dark, so, this portion of the opera, i'm gonna take it out." There's a point where artistic interpretation is a bit too far from what was meant. you lose the story. I lost this story entirely

piano redux redux

So, i'm working on condensing a piano reduction of the 3rd scene of my operetta down to a piano solo, after some insistence from people (dating back, oh...over a year. lol). it's an interesting challenge. The piano part, by itself, 78% of the time, is perfect. but then there are times, well...

when it's empty as empty can be.

I was chatting with a friend of mine from DPU who is finishing her DMA in piano performance. She's pretty freaking awesome at the whole piano thing. Makes me feel like i shoulda kept practicing. lol. Well, i was bouncing some stuff off of her, some piano tech stuff that i couldn't remember and don't have a piano to check out, and, well, she said what i should have known: "let your player figure it out."

It's true. I get caught up sometimes cause i can still play piano fairly well. I'm not going on tour anytime soon, but i can work out a Beethoven Sonata if i needed to. And so, here i was, thinking "yeah, i can i totally play piano. this'll be easy." then, i talk to a REAL pianist, and am reminded, gently, that i'm not a real pianist...compared to her, or any other "pro." lol.

sometimes, you have to be reminded of these things and just let go. lol.

and on that note, i'm letting the night go. talapia for dinner. made me happy


graduate school

I have several friends in the writing world, and, from what i've heard, getting into an MFA program is, i gather, quite stressful. People asking other people where to go, checking out lists, trolling message boards, waiting not so patiently, wondering how to write those personal statements. I find it, well, intriguing.

for how closer creative writing and composition are, this is one area confounds me. Maybe it's because i never had these experiences. I'm sure other MM and DMA candidates have had them. But, i did things a little differently.

I never really went looking for any published lists of "the best MM Composition programs in the nation." There were the programs i had heard of with famous teachers; Cornell, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, USC. Then there were programs i'd heard about but didn't know the teachers; BGSU, Columbia College in Chicago, Brooklyn College (other than Tania Leon), Temple, UNT. and then there were programs i hadn't heard of and yet had amazing people, and i wondered why i hadn't heard about them; UMKC (mainly)

Well, i started here.


yep, it's a link that basically has links to a ton of schools. Yep, that's right, i said "where do i want to live" and started clicking on schools, reading about the programs from their sites, and, occasionally, scheduling a visit. That't how i ended up at U Washington for a trip to meet some people. I hadn't even figured out what i wanted to get my Masters in yet (i was waffling between Conducting and Composition, and then after meeting the trombone prof and him saying "wow, you've played those pieces? you should do performance" i started thinking, yeah, maybe trombone performance).

It was a long, boring, random search that yielded not a lot.

So, what did i do when it was actually time to apply? well, i screwed up, missed all the deadlines but one, and they lost my scores. and i told them, in not so nice terms "no, i cannot reprint off $50 worth of scores and sent them fedex 2 day to you. i don't have the money for that." yeah, burned that bridge...royally. Never get on my bad side...seriously...

But, seriously, how did i decide on any schools? Easy...i asked my professors. Who better to ask? if you've got obstinate profs, they might just tell you to go where they did. But, most a lot of profs, especially those you've worked with closely, are going to know a thing or two. They're gonna know other professors at other schools. Buddies they met when they were in school, or at conferences, or at wine tastings, or parasailing. They are a wealth of knowledge. Especially, someone in your specific area.

I found out about where i went to for my MM, Brooklyn College, from Carlos Carrillo. He taught at good ole DePauw, and was my composition teacher. I asked him, "where do i go next? i know i want to go, but where?" and he said, without a pause "Brooklyn College."

Now, he told me that to go study with a particular person, Tania Leon. I never did study with her. but, he gave me other reasons, told me "it'd fit my personality, plus i'd be in NYC, studying with high caliber people without having to go to an Ivy...where i probably would not fit in well."

and he was completely, 100% right. He knew my writing style (or lack thereof at the time) and my personality. I probably wouldn't have done well at Princeton or Cornell, though a piece of me still wants to go...i could transfer, after all...But i'm quite happy here, thanks.

As i finished my MM, i asked George Brunner, my then composition teacher the same question. and he said, without hesitation "UMKC."


"i'll give you four reasons: Paul Rudy, James Mobberley, Chen Yi and Zhou Long"

"well then, i guess i'm applying to UMKC..."

Again, Skip knows me quite well. Probably better than anyone else. I also got the advice to check out SUNY: Buffalo, and if i hadn't gotten in at semester here at UMKC, i probably would have go back and forth between the two.

Yes, getting in here was luck, especially at semester. But it's working out great.

Still, it's how i found out where i was supposed to be. I asked people who know programs, know other people, and who know me. Yes, you'll end up with a thousand suggestions, but, considering there are millions of choices, a thousand is really cutting it down.

and, one thing about lists. in the end, the college experience is subjective. Each person will experience it differently. I know a lot of people that LOVED DePauw. I HATED it until much later, until i could look back and see what really happened. But, being there, i disliked it a lot. There were a lot of people on campus i didn't get along with. The whole Greek system baffled me as to why anyone would ever join. but the professors, oh man, they are AWESOME. i thought so at the time, but it didn't win against the bureaucracy, dislike of the social system, not getting along with a lot of people, and living in the middle of nowhere.

I probably would dislike being at Princeton. I have a gut feeling i wouldn't like it at all. yet, it's ranked as one of the top 5 schools in the nation every year. Statistics don't tell you anything worth knowing. Yeah, they have money. graduates get placed well.

But do i want to study with Steve Mackey? Well, yes, but that's not the point. lol. It's a personal matter. Talk to your teachers, as they will know other teachers. Find out who teachers where. Listen to a lot of music (or read a lot of literature.) Find a program that looks, interesting, read things the professors have written. dig through journals. Find other people who may have studied with so and so or who know so and so personally.

Really, tough, lists tell you nothing of what you'll experience. It's all subjective. That's why you just trust those you trust to give you good advice, and then trust your gut. you'll know after listening to 1 minute of music by a teacher (or reading a page or two) if you'll click with a person. remember, creative works are always windows to the souls of the artist.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on finding a program. just ask someone you trust, who knows your work. They'll have some good ideas for ya. Or just look geographically. lol.



Wrote a bit the last 2 days. I'm afraid mvt 3 is sounding too much like mvt 1 and 2. gotta find ways to spice it up a bit more.

The coldest part of the winter seems to be over here in KC. good thing, when i moved here, it was running down to 0 and below with wind chills hitting in the -20s. not cool at all.

I'm writing more than i have in quite a while. tonight, i don't have very good words for it. I have realized, as i think i mentioned before, my style is reminiscent of Schoenberg's atonal settings, pre-serialism. Like Pierrot Lunaire. There's a lot of motivic development.

Motive...it's an interesting word. yesterday in class, my professor asked "there's a word i've been avoiding in our talks about Schoenberg...i'm sure you all have figured out which." My mind popped to "motive" just as someone said it in the front of the class. "Yes, that's right. It's such a loaded word, isn't it? we think of Beethoven, and the 5th symphony. We think of Brahms. We think of tonality. Is there another good word for this?"

my brain popped to "set" but, at the same time, i think that's loaded almost too far in the opposite sense. Schoenberg, till the end, no matter what i try to say to myself differently, still held to a lot of romantic writing. It wasn't the cold serialism of, say, Pierre Boulez or Babbitt. There's was a romantic feel to it.

It's funny. I never hesitate to say that i use "motivic invention" and i write mainly using "short motives" and then messing with them as much as possible. and my harmonic language is, often times, quite atonal. and yet, i was hesitant to say Schoenberg wrote "motivically." It's interesting, these stigmas attached to terms.

I received Korngold's "Die Tote Stadt" in the mail today from Netflix. I look forward to watching it. I was going to tonight, but the night slipped away from me, i guess. I will watch it tomorrow, then.

quick note

Just a quick note before i go to sleep

was a good day, very productive. had a meeting, gonna get going with some local outreach type stuff. Should be cool.

Also, wrote a lot of music. Start movement 3. not sure it's quite what i was thinking. will revisit tomorrow.

in analysis, the professor is stressing looking at repetition as a good way to get into a schoenberg piece. I noticed it somewhat before, but now i'm really seeing it. for those pieces he wrote during his atonal, pre-serial time, it was all about motivic invention.

that's how i write

damn you Schoenberg for being awesome. I know i loved Pierrot Lunaire for a reason...and not just because it's a crazy clown.

Anyway, it is now time to sleep. perhaps something longer tomorrow.


later than i thought

Ok, for some reason tonight has flown by. dunno why. It's 10:30, and my evening, since getting home around 7, i feel like i have done nothing. i mean, i made dinner...which, btw, was a failure. it happens. lol. but other than that, i've talked to a friend about computer monitors and having a conversation with another friend.

sometimes, i wonder about post-secondary education, especially grad schools. Ok, so i got into my "first choices" both times for grad school. I call it luck. seriously. Especially UMKC right now. there was a spot open, i met with them, did my best to impress everyone, and guess i did alright. I do not think i would have faired well at some other schools i looked at; Princeton, Cornell, Stanford...

but, i feel as though if you follow your dreams to their utmost, pushing and pushing, no matter what, you will end up where you belong doing what needs done, having conversations that must happen, and becoming whoever it is you need to be.

Ped of Composition was interesting, hearing two very different insights into teaching compositions. On one hand, there was a teacher that was very technique oriented as a short-term goal, and a long term goal of finding individual voice. on the other hand was a teacher that was all about imagination and that technique can be learned everywhere and who is s/he to tell the student that his note is "wrong" even if it's not "proper voice leading."

Very interesting. I definitely tend toward the learn technique elsewhere, i'm here to push you in other ways. Not 100% sure what ways, but the part-writing is something i learned in Theory class and by studying how others wrote outside of class. I learned to write a melody by listening to the Beatles, Ozzy Osbourn, Bullet for My Valentine, Beethoven, Bruckner, Cage, Penderecki, and, well, everyone else i've ever heard. the same with harmony. and rhythm.

but who i am as a composer, well, that took a lot of leading from those before me. Carlos with his "You sound like this person! Listen to these 25 pieces for next week! and write me more music. Be you, not Hindemith" (i found that insulting, as i did not like Hindemith at the time...in fact, i still don't particularly like him.) The Doug Cohen with his sitting there, nodding, asking me what I thought of the piece, and letting me babble for an hour. And then saying, at the end "well, it seems you know what you need to do." And Skip...oh Skip. those were some of the most enlightening times of my life. Seriously. I think he should charge more for his sessions. and it definitely feels like therapy every time.

Still...it makes me think. Also, a question was posed about a fluid "SillyBus" and a more fluid way of dealing with what may occur in a class to guide assessment. For some reason, i always thought of classes as being pretty fluid, and assignments being moved around and changed. Maybe its because i always put things in my "SillyBuses" like "Other assignments may be added as the semester progresses depending on certain outcomes of the class." like, me teaching one class 12 tone technique, having them do a matrix, then write a piece using my "theory" handout. or taking a class into a computer lab for 3 sessions and doing a mashup using a bunch of samples i gave them.

Anyway, fluidity is nice. And i'm not sure what time it is what i'm doing, other than writing this. something seems to have snapped in my brain tonight. i bet if i looked in the mirror, my ears would be bleeding. lol.

and the TriCaster doesn't seem that bad, at first glance


taking a day

So, i took a bit of a day today. meaning, i've done a lot of looking at music, made a couple small changes to a score, but didn't get into writing as much. It's probably bad form to take a day when i've only just begun this "everyday" idea, but, i needed it.

Last night, after posting, i kept writing. and talking to people online. and writing...and writing. And then it was 3 am. After getting past that initial hurdle, things fell into place.

Today, was workshop. I shall continue to refer to it as such, because i still dislike the terminology "group lesson." and, it opens up the idea that we can all talk. anyway, ours is small, 3 people, so we really each get about 40-45 minutes of time. I showed/played the first movement of "6 Pieces After Basho" or whatever i'm calling it today, and what i had fully done of the second movement, about 25 seconds. yeah yeah, i wrote and wrote and got 25 seconds. I write slowly. sue me.

After i finished, there was some light talk about how to write a graded piece- i told the other two guys that i was giving a presentation Feb. 28th on how to score for wind band and was going to include a hand-out that has a break down of graded literature...if i can find it- and then we moved to discuss the piece.

Everyone was surprised at how pretty it was. Considering what they heard was my opera- check out my FB page or my myspace to hear that- i could understand their momentary confusion. it's not that i can't write pretty things, i just don't particular agree with the language often times. I strive to write something pretty using the language I think is pretty- which happens to be not what a lot of other people consider pretty. lol.

After that, it was basically one comment. "the first movement felt a little disjunct at this one point. maybe hold a note over?" and i was like "AH! yeah, that'd perfect the piece. yep yep." and that was it. No "have you thought about this?" or "This part-writing here seems pretty weak..." or "When i was your age, alto saxes did things like this." ok, that last bit is over the top. lol. still...i dunno.

I always go into these things expecting to hear "Why in the name of heaven and hell is this person here?" i don't know why i expect this. I got in, after all. Still, it's somewhat nice and disconcerting to basically hear "Good work for your first week here." maybe it's because, really, it's a small showing, 25 seconds in a week. Or maybe, i'm actually pretty good at this composition thing. I'd still say they were humoring me. lol

Anyway, i'm going over my first movement briefly tonight and that's it. I was going to score out the rest of the passacaglia and move on, but i've been so tired all day. last night drained me, but i've reached the point where finishing the movement will be "easy" so i'll take the night to sleep.

And i made eggrolls. They are awesome. I should post that on my food photo journal on FB. sometimes, i forget things. and by sometimes, i mean all the time. and by things, i mean everything.

looks of an elephant, without the memory.

oh, watched "The Colour of Magic." Good movie adaption of the Terry Pratchett novel. yep yep

a bit late at night...will continue this tomorrow, maybe

Ok...it's been an interesting night

I've really taken up some steam in "6 Pieces after Basho." it's a piece i'm writing for HS band with the following instrumentation

Alto Sax
Tenor Sx
Horn in F
2 Trumpets
Percussion (around 3 players for now, though i'm writing a total of 5 parts...though, really, i think it can be covered with 3)

The idea is to take 6 haiku by Basho and put together 6 one minute pieces, each piece a complete idea. It's a fun exercise in limitation; limited the time, limit the content (i'm working really from 1 melody, 1 countermelody, and a short motive)

The first movement "Lighting Gleams/Into Darkness Travels/A Night Heron's Scream" i finished months ago. For the most part, i think i've succeeded with that movement. The second movement "The Old Pond/A Frog/Plop!" has been much slower going. I think after the success of the first movement, the second suffered from "not being good enough," comparatively.

A couple days ago, as i was sketching away, i realized that the movement wanted to be a passacaglia. So, i've gone with it. Yesterday was...not so good. i scribbled a lot. today was the breakthrough, the "AH HA!" moment when i figured out the orchestration of the bassline, how to move it around, and the "melody." I went to an old stand-by; take the main melody (in this case, a 4 bar passage from mvt 1), write it out in different transpositions (this time, putting it into the key of the song. Yes, it's "tonal" sue me. it changes the numbers a bit, doing that, but it's ok. it's tonality! it makes everything fit!), and then playing with it. I always start with the inversion, cause after that you have 4 ways of doing the melody quickly.

Then, i start playing around with it. So...it's about a frog. what if i leap from melody to inversion, skipping x amount of notes each time?

and, blammo, there's my melody, all jumping around, playful, kinda tonal, almost. lol.

Also, i have been having a great conversation with Speaks Coffee tonight about craft, what's important with writing, etc. it's always fun, comparing her experience as a writer with mine as a composer and seeing the differences between music and language.

Anyone who says music is a language obviously hasn't talked craft with a writer before. I see the differences immediately. like, when discussing divorcing ones style from analysis. I said it seemed like it was easier for a musician, possibly because we have such an insane amount of analysis. then, Speaks Coffee with a great question "but, do you think in music? I know you think in English, most of the time."

but its a great point. With music, our style is individually developed; on paper, in a computer program, in our heads...but, no matter how much we try, is it as engrained as English? I think ABOUT music a lot. I hear passages in my head, i sing to myself (talk to myself too), get rhythms going as i tap away. but i don't think IN music. when someone asks me a question i don't think "0 5 5 7 8 0 11 0 11 2 2 1 0" i think "well, that's a stupid question." Even when i think about music, its in english.

So...it's a good pedagogical thought. It's harder to divorce oneself from analyzing writing in a 1st person perspective- "this is how I would do it/this is how I would word this/your style is so [whatever] compared to mine." you're intimate with how you speak. You're intimate with you're vernacular. Just look at my writing. It's pretty damn near how i speak. Lots of rambling, short sentences, ideas tossed around all willy-nilly. lol.

and i usually an laughing when i toss in an lol.

It's something to ponder more...but when i've had some sleep. maybe some coffee. Right now, i better get a little sleep before tomorrow. I have composition workshop, and not nearly as much as i would have liked to show for the week.

But, the steamed pork dumplings were DELICIOUS!

and, there will be talk of esotericism vs. commercialism at some point...i'm for a happy medium, and let's leave it at that for now.



sometimes i feel like i'm losing my mind. I sit, stare at the page. I know what needs done, goals are set, deadlines approach. the falling of the grains through the hourglass are palpable. My mouth goes dry, i reach for some water...

In the end, it still sits there. So, it's a passacaglia. so this happens, the melody starts here, moves here. It's all planned, it's ready to be put on the paper. But it feels so wrong as pen hits paper.

There are times that i hear the music. Other times, i can't hear a damn thing through all the noise up there. It's like a thousand imps in my mind screaming a thousand thoughts in a thousand different languages. And it's my job to interpret what's being said and turn it into reality.

maybe i should take yoga. ha! could you imagine lumbering ole me sitting in a yoga class. i wouldn't be able to do the first pose! lol. i am planning a bit of a work-out regime, however, i am missing a couple things and would prefer not to have to purchase them again. perhaps i can have my mother send them.

Anyway, it's hard to think when i'm thinking so much. Clarity is what i need. all that extraneous information sieved out of my head, leaving only what needs done. Anyone have tips? I am thinking back to class with Dr. Carla Edwards, sophomore year, Winter Term. finding my demon, facing it, a million other ideas we tossed around.

One problem i've had was "how i am going to live? loans are nice, but i need a job...but not something that's gonna bring me down." that means no Guitar Center for sure. i'd go crazy. I think i found a nice freelance gig with a lot of room to grow. One less worry...

Still...something i found out during my masters is i can't do technical and acoustic composition at the same time. I do well with electronic stuff when i get technical, cause i see more and more tools. But its hard to go from technical manuals to a score for wind band.

I think working out will help. i think my diet improving will also help. now i just need some recreation. Join a bowling league? when baseball season hits, i'm probably going to try and go often. If i can score season tickets, i will. that'd be hot. 81 home games...

still..why am i here? to write music. get a doctorate. lead myself to a teaching gig.

i need to find a way to write music.


And then it turned into...

A passacaglia

It was quite inadvertent. but by bar 16, i had realized it.

It's a departure for me. I don't often use fancy "classical" forms. The basic stuff, binary, ternary, bar, through...that's what i usually stick with. It's not a hatred of the classical forms, or anything silly like that. It's just...

The forms mean certain things have to happen. Let's say i'm writing a sonata. Ok, i've got 5 parts with which to work. They happen in this order: intro, exposition, development, recap, coda. On the surface, that's fine. Write an intro, a couple interesting themes, work with them a bit, play them again, and then end it.

But there's all these little bits that come along with it...those are the things that kill me. Links to tonality...Like, theme 1 should be in tonic, theme 2 should be in the dominant. at the recap, both should appear in the tonic. if you happen to do theme 2 in a minor mode, say, the supertonic, then it needs to appear in major at the end.

it's like a fugue...sonata says more than just the order...it's all the other bits and pieces that make me a bit crazy.

so, i'm writing a passacaglia. it's relatively open ended really. All i need, technically, is that repeated bass ostinato. check. now it's about the orchestration, and the variations of the "melodic" line that is created. It'll serve well for this, as it is a piece for HS band.

certainly a teaching moment. "hey guys, let's talk about form for a second. anyone notice something peculiar about mvt. 2?" "yeah, there's a repeated figure."

Pedagogically, it's sound. As far as the character of the piece, it's sound. But as a tool i like working with its too...predictable? the interest has to come from the orchestration. Time to pass that little guy around...


During workshop Wednesday, Dr. Simpson said "You have to be like be like a pianist...do you think they want to or are ready to play everyday? no, they go in, start warming up, and after an hour or so, they're ready to make some music." It was a pep talk to try and get us composing every day. I know i posted his comments earlier, so i won't rehash

Basically, i've been trying to do this. I'm not an "inspiration only" kinda composer. I don't get a special idea, then write for 3 days, locked up, and then not write for another 4 months. Generally, i work regularly, put down some notes, figure out what i'm going to do, make some rules, sketch some stuff, and, eventually, it will culminate in some decent works. lately, however, it hasn't been going so well

I hardly ever did "everyday." more like, 3 or 4 times a week. A lot of times it was a time/stress thing. I'd work, come home, make dinner, and feel a bit like dying, depending on the job. Those 16 hour days, back to back to back really kill ya. Other times, like this fall, i had time but no place. I found myself sitting in the local library for a few hours at a time, getting some stares from people, as i never approached the books, just used the internet and scribbled on staff paper and graph paper...with a lot of muttering, i'm sure. i tend to mutter. and to talk to myself loudly. lol

But, right now, i'm trying the everyday approach. Speaking with Speak Coffee today, i told her my frustration. We both practice slightly different arts, but both write, so, we do speak of the process and such. I told her that i'm trying that everyday thing and that i'm not making much headway. a lot of scratching, starting, cursing, and x-ing things out. Speak Coffee said:
"making yourself write everyday is a good thingit's conditioning. just because you aren't winning a game today doesn't mean that the conditioning isn't helping."

for all who don't know, i was a bit of a jock in HS. played hockey, football (till the concussions got to me...which was most of a season. lol), baseball (on and off), track, cross country, swimming. heck, even tried wrestling (almost tore my arm off, so i quit. i was a good hockey played, after all.) and soccer (made a travel hockey team...then it folded. tragic story). So, these types of analogies work well on me.

I HATED working out. seriously, still do. just like i dislike practicing. I much prefer being just naturally awesome at something and calling it good. unfortunately, i'm not naturally awesome at anything. at least not to the point where i shouldn't practice. I've always known this. That's why, often times, i grit my teeth and bear it. My senior year, i ran cross country. stupidest idea ever. It was pretty much an "what, so i can't play football, alright. what, i can't do any other fall sports? screw you, i'll run cross country! never complete the course? I'll show you!" and, sure enough, i did it...I started working out in June...by August...well...I could almost complete the course. lol. main reason i got really into it was conditioning though...I liked swimming quite a bit, but i was, well...the slowest varsity swimmer in the state. easily. And i thought "well, if i run cross country (like the other 2 swimmers) maybe i'll be in a lot better shape and actually do alright come swim season!" It worked miracles. Seriously...then i got in a car wreck, spent 4 months rehabbing...and the shoulder STILL hurts, to this day. lol. but that's just dumb luck...

So...it's about conditioning. I think Speak Coffee had a great point, along with Dr. Simpson. maybe if i get 5 or 6 more people to tell me, i'll really feel it. lol.

just like this blog is conditioning. can i write in it regularly? who knows.
The music though...it'll plod along. i think that's the problem, really. the last 2 projects have taken far too long. they should have been finished long ago. they're a bit stale. they need a breath of fresh air. maybe that will come with the redesigned kitchen area with newly constructed pantry? lol


Pedagogy of Composition

Sorry for not posting last night. got a little tied up, and died relatively early. Only made it to about 10:00 before i was bed bound with a book.

Last night was the first meeting of Pedagogy of Composition. When i saw the class, i HAD to sign up. I hadn't really seen a pedagogy of comp class before. Seen ped of theory, ped of history, ped of [insert instrument] but not composition. And, as a composer and a teacher, i was all about it.

turns out there are only a couple classes in the NATION. and i had seen a lot of "how to compose" books [Brindle-Smith, Cope, Schoenberg, Composition for Dummies, etc] it never seemed like there was a complete methodology. and there's the philosophical question of "how does one teach a creative subject?"

I have missed ed classes. I jumped right in, both feet first, and never stopped. i definitely pegged myself as someone with a strong music ed background. i did 7/8 of the coursework, i've been an adjunct, read the trade magazines, still keep up with MENC [should renew my membership...keep forgetting]...I felt more at home in this element than Advanced Analysis [at which i'll do alright] or even composition lessons. I've always viewed myself as educator 1st, composer 2nd. Mostly its a confidence thing; i know i'm a pretty good teacher. i've heard it from students, from evaluators, from random people walking by and seeing me getting my whole class dancing to Justin Timberlake [college students, mind you]. Composition, yeah, not so much...i'm still new to it. I hear amazing works, like one of the guys in my composition workshop, Greg Gagnon. Reminds me a lot of Whitney George, for some reason, as far as writing styles. Enough where i might do some comparative study for my Analysis class. yeah, he's a new MM student and the piece i heard of his was amazing. some great lines, really interesting setting of the text...

so i lack confidence, because, as a DMA student, i don't feel like i'm "a cut above" the MM students. i entered late, yes...quite late compared to most of the composers. I take solace in the "if the faculty didn't see something there, i wouldn't be here"

Anyway, i digress...this is about pedagogy, for the second.

The class will be awesome. Some of the work i'll breeze through, the mechanical part: how to write a syllabus, how to put together a methodology, what kind of research is appropriate, creating assessment sheets. The mechanical side of those, i know, by heart. I've done many a syllabi, strung together a couple methodologies, and done assessment sheets

but not for composition.

it's funny, we got really out there for a bit in the lat 25 minutes, really getting into philosophy of education. The class was actually the brain child of a DMA student that one of the professors was all over in the "i always wanted to do that..." kind of way. They layout of the class, though, speaks to how much time the student and head professor put into designing the class. it's only been done once. they completely revamped it. self-critical analysis, a major tool for any teacher, and for any composer. perhaps that's why i've done alright as a composer, having that self-analysis bit drilled into me at 18 by Dr. Caroline Jetton.

As i grow older, i learn who to send letters of thanks...and apology for being a jerk. lol

Still, this class will be awesome. we kept talking about one role of the teacher was to "find out the students goals, help them toward those goals, but also expand the horizons of each and every student." and, at the end of class, it was "what do you want to get out of this class?", my cliche answer "to expand my horizons!"

but in seriousness, i have a good grounding in education, in pedagogy. i know how to teach. But how to teach composition? i've thought about it a great deal, wrote a philosophy of teaching revolving around composition [that's the one assignment missing that i want them to do...maybe i'll try and be the TA for this class next time. and by maybe, i mean i really want to!], but, it's all about more ideas. I've only really had lessons with 4 people to this point, and only 2 really formally. My time with James Beckel and Carlos Carrillo, while sometimes a part of class, wasn't in the formal format of "university composition major." it was "i want to do this, do you have time to work with me and show me a little?"

It was great fun. I've learned a lot. They were all different teachers. Beckel worked my mechanics a lot, the technique of composition. needed that as i hadn't really done any of it, beyond theory. Carlos worked a lot of "don't you hear where you're going?" "you need to set limits, you wander!" "try it...with pen and paper. at a piano if you wish, but no computer." Cohen would sit, and wait...till i asked something...and then ask me something in return. a normal conversation would be
C: mmhmm, mmhmm.
J: what do you think?
C: well...what do you think?
J: I'm not really satisfied with it
C: why?
J: well, [this] and [this] and [this]
C: what would make it better?
J: well, maybe [this] and [this]
C: have you read this book [or heard this piece]?

and so on

Brunner was...amazing. I don't know, but he and I really clicked as student and teacher. he understood that when came in and said "i don't have shit...not a damn thing to show you. sorry" it wasn't "I didn't try to write any music, i just sat around" it was "I sat, i looked, i sketched, i threw it in the trash, lather, rinse, repeat, for a week."

we talked about cooking, literature, painting, metal (the music), hardcore, gigs i've one, gigs he's done, recording techniques, family, friends, relationships, long drives across the country, good wines, the best scotch

i learned a lot from Skip...

from Beckel, i learned the basic techniques i never learned in theory and orchestration, from Carlos, i learned what it meant to be a composer, from Cohen, i learned how to be more assertive against myself, to see my own path, and from Skip...i learned to write music. funny saying it that way, but he was that last step for me. how do i take what these three guys gave me, and everything you gave me, and do SOMETHING with it.

I think an undergrad would fail miserably with Skip. lol. I really do, it'd be hard. he expects you know how to write music before you come in. He doesnt want to waste time explaining to you WHY this sounds the way it does. He expected me to know that. And i did, for the most part. occasionally i didn't, but usually i did. his job was finishing touches, making sure i knew exactly why everything was there. and if i was satisfied, he was satisfied, and it was time for talk of gigs from the weekend, and what new recipes we tried.

well, i've spent my morning here instead of showering and getting ready for class. lol. maybe i'll run through the drops really quickly. I was 20 minutes early yesterday leaving at 10 after. guess it takes around 25 minutes to walk there, depending on my pace...

Pedagogy is good. Perhaps this will end up being my "Composition Pedagogy Journal" as well as my composition journal. Or perhaps i should separate them? riiight, i couldn't handle two journals.

anyway, for me, they two are together: how i write music and how i would teach someone else to do it. Means the same thing to me


New Beginnings

Had my first doctoral lesson session. UMKC does group lesson style. I support this style 100%. it gives more people listening and seeing a piece, more feedback, and fresh ideas. MFA programs in creative writing seem to all follow a workshop idea, and i'm happy to see a college doing that with composition. the processes used in both are so similar, and yet in music composition, we're expected to have new exciting things every week, for an hour, with the same prof. After a year, or maybe even a semester, especially when working on something large (like, say, an opera), the interactions can become stale.

Not to say i didn't love my lessons at Brooklyn. Doug Cohen and George Brunner are fantastic teachers and i did feel like i took something away every lesson, even if i didn't have much to show them.

Anyway, first lesson was today. My current teacher, Reynold Simpson, was telling us about how when he studied with Carter, he had to bring new material every week, period. If he didn't Carter sent him home. Carter also told Simpson that "as a composer, making 40 hours a week to compose is normal. It is your profession now." Simpson parred it down to about 20 hours a week, especially as a full-time student. Right now, i have that time. When i get a job- which, incidentally i will have to eventually- that may change. unfortunately, composition does not pay my bills. Still...

Simpson also said "you can't wait till inspiration hits. If you sit around, waiting for inspiration, it may never come. or it will come when you're shopping and you may not have a pen and paper handy to jot down that idea." He likened composition to practicing piano (shudder). A solid pianist will practice everyday, 2-4 hours. sounds about right- why i never made it as a pianist. They don't go in ready to play. a lot of days, they don't want to practice. But, they sit down, start running scales, start doing etudes, run passages that haunt them in their sleep over and over again...and, maybe, after an hour or so, they really start to make music. Once they start playing, even the monotonous boring scales and arpeggios, eventually, the music will come...

I'm not an "when inspiration hits" kind of composer. I try to make time on a regular basis and write. unfortunately, i do go in spurts. I'll sit and try, do some sketches, it'll suck, throw it away discouraged, and come back again tomorrow. That may go on for a month or two...maybe longer...all depends on the situation. I had a good period there in September and October, really got some good work done, even if there is only about a minute of music to show for it...Then, November hit, i started working full time at Sam Ash, got kicked out of the house, slept on couches for a few days, moved into a friends apartment for a month...and really lost myself. Shit happens, and, unfortunately, as an emotional creature, it effects me greatly.

I haven't really touched anything since November. I wanted to, i got out the pads at night, tried to write a line or so, get going...and i would toss it aside, go to Hulu and watch some TV...

Now, I'm in Kansas City. I've started my Doctorate. my DMA...in Composition. I have a real chance to get my doctorate by age 30- shooting for the spring before my 31st birthday, including getting my thesis done. That's a lot of work...the coursework runs about 4 years or so, so i'm going to be doing my thesis while still doing coursework.

I've resolved to do this. I had said before "Doctorate by 30." I mean it...

I have decided...I will write every day here. I have to do it. I really have to...This is my last chance, as it were, to do this. I've thrown a lot out to get here, made sacrifices, moved all over the country, took a lot of chances. I know no one here, other than they few guys i've met in the program. I don't know the city...It's a great chance to hole up in my room and write...compose...like a real composer...

I will write everyday. I will also try to write on here everyday, as proof. I will try and put into words what I am doing. If it's not composing, what analysis I've done, what texts i've perused trying to find a sexy, sensual french poem to completely destroy semantically but keep the content...

I resolve to do this. Will i be able to keep it up? i don't know...so far the home-cooking idea has gone well. perhaps things shall work



I have no idea when i last posted. Not sure if i have any followers, casual viewers, or carrion birds waiting for my death hovering above this website...

Anyway, I have relocated, AGAIN

This time, i have run away to Kansas City, MO

I am at UMKC

I am a doctoral student. DMA: Composition

Classes: Lessons, Pedagogy of Compositon, Advanced Analysis III: Contemporary

AA III shouldn't be bad, but more work than i wish. the professor already told me "it's open to everyone, so we may go a bit slow for you." I'm no theory genius. perhaps i talked myself up TOO much trying to get into the class. but still, an unprovoked "we may go a bit slow for you" worries my slightly.

Anyway, I make no pretenses at being a theory god. I do alright for myself. and it's been a long time since i did "formal" analysis in a classroom setting. like...5 years...

Sadly, i didn't pass all my matriculation exam. If i had taken a day or two and read Grout, i probably would have. However, I have to take "Early Music Review" at some point in the next couple semesters. couldn't right now as its full. S'ok...maybe i'll do it over the summer. one month, every morning? sure...why the hell not? i taught a class like that. We had fun

I was also "recommended" to take History of the Classical period. not the review, the graduate class. I probably won't. getting the required history classes in may be difficult...though there was a great one called "Music of China" being taught this semester.

however, before i can take a grad history class, i have to take "Intro to Bib and Research"

Or pass out of it. I took the test. Got all the acronyms mixed up. LAME. I don't do well with acronyms actually. However, I submitted two well written and well researched papers from a graduate course in musicology. Hopefully that's enough weight to prove i know how to do research

anyway, i ramble. i'm just out of the house for a while this afternoon, which makes me a bit happy. it's been bitter cold and snowing since i arrived in KC. This should be an interesting 5 years...yep...5 years...